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The Chalfant House reborn

11/14/2017 02:38PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Steven Hoffman
Staff Writer

In August, the Chalfant House at 220 North Union Street in Kennett Square was reborn as the new real estate office of  Jayne Bair and Century 21 Pierce & Bair. In addition to this new purpose, the former William Chalfant mansion underwent an extensive restoration and rebuild that was planned out by Bair and her husband, David Francis, after a devastating fire ripped through the house nearly three years earlier, on Nov. 19, 2014.
Century 21 Pierce & Bair is in its 40th year of providing real estate services to the community this year. They were able to celebrate the completion of the large renovation project and the opening of a new home in August.
“Our open house was so much fun,” explained Bair, who has been a real estate professional since 1991.
The Chalfant House has been owned by the Bair family since the mid-1980s. Jayne's parents, Richard and Louise Bair, originally purchased the building to use as their real estate office. But for various reasons, the timing was never right and they never got around to converting the house to that use. Instead, the home was rented out to several tenants at a time, some of them staying year after year. Richard and Louise Bair never felt that the time was right to make a change with the house.
“They were going to sell it a few times, but they never did,” Jayne explained.
It's easy to understand how someone could form an attachment with the building.
The Chalfant Mansion, which was originally built in 1884, is an example of Queen Anne architecture. William Chalfant was the original owner of the mansion, and it was designed by renowned architect Frank Furness. Furness designed more than 600 buildings, most of them in the Philadelphia area, throughout his 45-year career. He was known for his bold and diverse style. Among his most important surviving buildings are the University of Pennsylvania Library, which is now known as the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.
When the Chalfant House caught fire sometime after 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2014, one of Kennett Square’s most historic and architecturally significant buildings was threatened. When the blaze couldn't be put out with fire extinguishers, fire companies were called and responded to the scene. Before long, fire companies from surrounding communities also responded. The good news was that no firefighters were hurt while battling a blaze. One tenant suffered minor injuries. The bad news, however, was that the building itself suffered significant damage―estimated at more than $350,000.
After the fire, Jayne Bair and David Francis, decided to purchase the property from her parents and started developing a plan to restore it. Jayne really liked the idea of utilizing the building as the home of the real estate business―just as her parents had originally planned.
“We thought about it for about a year,” Jayne explained. She and her husband purchased the property in February of 2016. The restoration work took place over the course of the next 16 months.
Kennett Square architect Dennis Melton was enlisted to oversee the architectural work, while Mobac, Inc. handled the contracting work on the project.
The results of the restoration work on the Chalfant House are stunning. They paid attention to the smallest details. Ornate doors were installed to match the original style of the house. The original chandeliers, which were completely blackened, were meticulously cleaned and repaired by a company specializing in this kind of work.
The restoration work was more than what the owners had initially anticipated, but now that the project is complete everyone is pleased with the results.
 “The restoration of the Chalfant House is really top notch,” said Lynn Sinclair, a longtime member of the Kennett Square Historical Commission and a protector of local history. “Jayne and her crew returned the Historic District's most iconic building to its former glory.”
Sinclair lauded the owners’ efforts to maintain the historical integrity of one of Kennett Square’s finest buildings.
“The attention to detail in the replication of the charred woodwork is amazing,” said Sinclair. “The  modern systems, not to mention insulation, will extend the life of the building another 100 years.”
Bair, whose work office is now on the second floor of the Chalfant House, said that she’s excited about the new home of Century 21 Pierce & Bair.
 “It’s very good to have the project finished,” she said. “We’re so excited to be in town and to be in this historic building.”

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.


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